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Groups Argue EPA Must Strengthen New York City's Smog Controls

Environmentalists argued that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has illegally weakened anti-smog requirements for the New York City region
November 6, 2003
New York, NY —

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has illegally weakened anti-smog requirements for the New York City region, environmentalists argued in court today.

Earthjustice attorney David Baron, representing Environmental Defense, argued today before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that EPA violated the Clean Air Act in concluding that the New York City region will meet federal ozone standards by 2007 under current pollution control plans.

"State of the art computer models show that the New York area will not meet clean air standards for ozone by the 2007 federal deadline without stronger pollution controls," noted Baron. "Yet EPA still signed off of the region's current smog control plans. We contend that deprives people the health protection the law requires."

The New York metropolitan area -- including New York City and several surrounding towns and counties -- has for decades violated federal air quality standards for ozone, the major component of smog. The EPA has classified the region as a "severe" ozone non-attainment area under the Clean Air Act, with a 2007 deadline for meeting health standards.

Unfortunately, computer modeling predicts that the metropolitan area will continue to violate the ozone standard by wide margins in 2007. Despite these results, EPA issued a finding that New York will meet the 2007 deadline, thereby waiving requirements for stronger pollution controls.

"Asthma is reaching epidemic proportions in many New York City neighborhoods," said Andy Darrell, director of the Living Cities program at Environmental Defense. "Practical and cost-effective solutions to air pollution from the transportation sector exist and could help cut ozone pollution across the city. By not requiring full use of pollution control measures, the EPA is undermining public health and the Clean Air Act."

Exposure to ground-level ozone (or smog) causes asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing and other respiratory distress, and is linked to increased use of medications, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits. Prolonged inhalation of unsafe levels of smog can reduce lung function and development in children, and permanently damage lung tissue.

The case is Environmental Defense v. EPA, Docket # 02-4107.


Environmental Defense is a leading national nonprofit organization representing more than 300,000 members. Since 1967, we have linked science, economics and law to create innovative, equitable and cost-effective solutions to society's most urgent environmental problems.


Cory Magnus, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500

David Baron, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500

Andy Darrell, Environmental Defense, 212-616-1206

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.